How to Hit a Fade with Your Irons

Published on 11/29/2023 · 7 min readMaster the art of hitting a fade with your irons as we provide step-by-step guidance and tips to add this valuable shot to your golfing repertoire!
Brendon Elliott, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Brendon Elliott

Photo by TSG Pixels

I have spent nearly three decades working in the golf industry, and it has been a wonderful journey thus far. What has made it the most special to me has been the opportunity to help countless people enjoy the game more.

As a PGA professional, the concept of helping someone increase the pleasure they experience from the game comes in many different forms. When I was a manager of a course, it was all about making sure their day on the links exceeded their expectations. As a coach, which I have spent the better part of 17 years doing, it is all about helping them play just a little bit better than they did the day before.

One of the most common things golfers are interested in learning about and, ultimately, being able to do is shape shots as they play. Hitting draws and fades on demand is a skill that any golfer can learn, but to execute these shots on a regular basis requires both an understanding of how to do so and putting in hours of practice.

Coach Brendon Elliott, PGA, helping a student on the range. Photo courtesy of Brendon Elliott

I am going to share with you the how-to on hitting a fade with your irons. Being able to do it when you want, as you play, is the part that will be up to you. How much time and effort are you willing to put forth in making yourself the king of the fade? Only you can answer that question.

What is a Fade?

Simply put, a fade is a golf shot that starts left and works back to the right … of course, that is for a right-handed golfer. For the left-handed golfers, a fade will start to the right and move back to the left.

Incidentally, a large majority of the game's best players and PGA Tour professionals — both past, like Jack Nicklaus, and present, like Dustin Johnson — rely on hitting a fade. Of course, these guys are the kings of the power fade, something many amateurs are not really capable of.

What Causes a Golf Ball to Fade?

What causes a golf ball to fade, draw, slice, hook, or anywhere in between are principles known as the Ball Flight Laws.

The combination of your:

  • Target line, or a line running from behind your ball, through it, and on through to the target
  • Club path, or the direction your clubhead is moving as it comes into contact with the ball
  • Clubface and the direction it is pointing in relation to both as it contacts the ball

These factors create a specific kind of spin on the ball. That spin dictates how the ball flies in the air and what kind of curve it will have on it. In this case, for a right-handed golfer, a left-to-right spin is created.

The Modern Ball Flight Laws in golf look like this:

Clubface (in relation to the target line) + Swing Path (in relation to the clubface) = Ball Flight

Ball FlightClubface in Relation to Target LineSwing Path in Relation to Clubface
StraightSquareSquare to Straight Path
Straight SliceSquareOpen to Outside to Inside Path
Straight DrawSquareClosed to Inside to Outside Path
Push SliceOpenOpen to Straight Path
Push StraightOpenSquare to Inside to Outside Path
Push DrawOpenClosed to Inside Outside Path
Pull SliceClosedOpen to Outside Inside Path
Pull StraightClosedSquare to Outside to Inside Path
Pull DrawClosedClosed to Straight Path

When I was first learning the game roughly 40 years ago — and even later in life, when I was first learning how to teach it — the following were the Ball Flight laws, now known as the Old Ball Flight Laws:

Ball FlightSwing PathFace in Relation to Swing Path
PushInside Outside PathSquare to Swing Path
Push SliceInside Outside PathOpen to Swing Path
Push HookInside Outside PathClosed to Swing Path
StraightStraight to TargetSquare to Swing Path
PullOutside to Inside PathSquare to Swing Path
Pull HookOutside to Inside PathClosed to Swing Path
Pull SliceOutside to Inside PathOpen to Swing Path
SliceStraight to TargetFace is Open
HookStraight to TargetFace is Closed

Thanks to modern technology like TrackMan, FlightScope, and other launch monitors, we have a much different understanding of how ball flight is actually influenced. The ball flight laws above are now known to be the “Old Ball Flight Laws.” Beware, however, as many uninformed coaches still work off of these older and outdated principals.

Now, with all of this information in mind, let's get back to the question: What causes a golf ball to fade?

A fade is a slight and controlled variation of the second principle as laid out above in the Modern Ball Flight Laws: With a straight slice, the face is square to the target and open to outside to inside path.

The golfer's clubface is square to their intended target at address. However, during the downswing, the club is swung on a path that moves from the outside to the inside, and the face is slightly open to that path. This creates a shot that starts left of the intended target and gently works back toward the target (for right-handed golfers).

What You Can Do To Hit a Fade Purposefully

Photo Freerange Stock

Now that you have a better understanding of how a fade happens let me share with you a few ways you can purposely hit a fade and do so on command.

Pre-Swing Fundamentals and Setup

  • Grip
    • A grip that is a little weaker can help you hit a fade. A weak grip sees the V’s in both hands, which are created by the thumb and the pointer finger, facing more toward the chin at setup. A weak grip tends to see the clubface a little more open at impact.
  • Alignment
    • The way you line your body up in relation to your target line will help to dictate the path you swing the club on. When I reference body lines, I am talking about how your feet, knees, hips, and shoulders and how they are lined up in relation to the target. This is referred to as your stance.
    • For a straight shot, you want to have your target line running at the target and your body lines; for right-handed golfers, running parallel left of your target line.
    • To hit a controlled fade, setting your body lines slightly open or left of target will help. This will help you swing the club on a more outside-to-inside path in relation to your target line. This will help you swing the club on a more outside-to-inside path in relation to your target line.
    • Remember, when considering the “New Ball Flight Laws,” the clubface, in relation to your target line + your swing path, in relation to the clubface = ball flight. To hit a fade, you want the face to be square to the target and open to an outside-to-inside swing path.

The Swing Itself

Once your setup conditions are in line to help you hit a fade, then you basically only need to execute that outside-to-inside swing path on the downswing. Remember, the clubface needs to be slightly open to the path out square to the target.

If you swing from the outside to inside on the downswing but have the clubface square to the path, making it closed to the target, you will hit a pull to the left.

If you swing from the outside to inside on the downswing but have the clubface closed to both the target and the swing path, then you will hit a pull draw, which starts left of the target and keeps curving even more to the left.

Photo by Erik Brolin

Wrapping Things Up

This brief primer on hitting a fade will give you a much better idea of what one is and what you need to do to execute one. Remember: This, like all things in golf, takes practice.

If you would like further information or have any questions about all things golf, don't hesitate to contact me or another Curated Golf Expert.

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